YouTube Balances Higher Quality Videos with Usability

YouTube has announced that some of its videos can now be viewed in higher quality. In addition, more and more YouTube videos are expected to be available in higher quality over time.

What is higher quality video you ask? According to YouTube’s Help Center:

The ability to upload higher quality videos means improved sharpness and visual clarity for many YouTube videos. The difference is especially noticeable in videos that contain text or fast movement and in full-screen mode.

How do you watch YouTube videos in higher quality? The YouTube Team says to look for a link directly below the video player that let’s users choose between normal and higher quality viewing options. I spent a few minutes browsing YouTube this morning, but the only video I found with this link was the YouTube Is Now HD?? video that accompanies the YouTube Videos in High Quality blog announcement.

Recently, YouTube has taken flack for its poor video quality, and the YouTube Team admits that its community of video publishers “have been requesting this feature for some time.”

While YouTube recommends uploading at 640×480 resolution, other video sharing sites such as Vimeo have pushed forward with high definition video uploads that can be viewed at an eye-catching, HD video resolution of 1280×720.

But as the YouTube Team points out, usability is its key influencer:

Our general philosophy is to make sure that as many people as possible can access YouTube and that videos start quickly and play smoothly. That’s one reason why you don’t see us racing to call this “Super Duper YouTube HD,” because most people don’t want to wait a long time for videos to play.

In my opinion, keeping with this philosophy is the main reason YouTube continues to be number 1 in its space. Load time is a make-or-break factor for any website, especially one that served up 3.25 billion videos in the first month of 2008.

Regardless, YouTube continues to be an excellent distribution outlet for companies that want to expand their audience/clients via video. And don’t forget, you’re likely to see your videos showing up in Google’s search results.